The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. February 15, 2017: ” I see that Fat Bibi, the cross-dresser, is waddling around Washington, no doubt trying his best to convince the Beltway frauds why they should immediately have American military might flood the Mid-East and destroy all of Israeli enemies. Since that would encompass the entire Mid-East (and many other areas) our brave boys would be engaged in Glorious Liberation Efforts for the next ten years. Israel is the Spanish Fly in the ointment of peace and harmony and has been since 1948. They have killed and dispossessed countless Palestinians and used as an excuse for their murderous onslaughts, that they are the original occupants of Palestine and have a right to destroy anyone in their way. In point of fact, 95% of the current Israeli population is Ashkenazi which means their ancestors had nothing to do with Palestine.”
Table of Contents
- Two Uninspiring Choices
- SECRECY NEWS
- Trump assails U.S. intelligence agencies amid questions over Russia
- Trump asks Netanyahu to hold off on settlements, avoids endorsing two-state solution
- New Declassified CIA Memo Presents Blueprint for Syrian Regime Collapse
- ‘Our land’: Russia tells US that Crimea won’t be ‘given back’ to Ukraine
- Finding feelings: Intelligence agency lines up new tool for rooting out insider threats
- Germany emphasizes importance of two-state solution
- Treachery in a bad name
- Palestinians in East Jerusalem battle for their homes
- NATO allies must pay more or US will ‘moderate its commitment’: Mattis
- Munich Security Report: Here comes the apocalypse
Two Uninspiring Choices
Government sometimes seems the employer of last resort
February 14, 2017
by Philip Giraldi
The Unz Review
We live in a political environment where nothing is any longer real. Allegedly apolitical Amnesty International issues a 48 page report stating that 13,000 political prisoners have been hanged in Syrian government prisons “a crime against humanity” and then it is revealed that the document was fabricated in London based on unconfirmed rebel sources and that its graphics were computer generated simulations. The mainstream media is uncritically promoting the allegations and the author of the report has been marketing the claims as if they are factual while beating the drum for military intervention and regime change in Syria.
The American government similarly should be regarded as a terra incognita if one is in search of the truth. If there is one thing I learned from more than twenty years of moving in and around the vast federal bureaucracy it is that one should never believe anything appearing in the media regarding elected officials or senior managers. If one were to accept uncritically everything being said about people at or aspiring to be at the top of the government one would have to believe that our country is led either by geniuses or idiots depending on your political point of view. Washington is either completely bad or completely good depending on one’s perspective and you should always triple check the sources.
In reality, even Vice Presidents and Secretaries of Defense brush their teeth every morning just like everyone else and they are commonly no more or less ethical or intelligent than most people in the general run of the population. To be sure, we have had our share of completely incompetent and politically corrupted senior staff under President Barack Obama, to include Eric Holder, Ash Carter, Loretta Lynch, Samantha Power, Arne Duncan and Susan Rice while the list of President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton appointees is so dreadful that it is best not to even try to recall who did what and to whom, though I do feel compelled to drop two names – Sandy Berger, best known for stuffing national archive documents down his trousers and Madeleine Albright who thought killing 500,000 Iraqi children through sanctions was “worth it.”
And if any readers out there are concerned lest the high-minded patriots that make up successive cabinets have been in some way held accountable for the damage they did to the country I am pleased to report that not one of them has suffered in any way. Those who are still alive all occupy well remunerated sinecures and pop up occasionally at presidential libraries where they can share their days of glory with the slick willies who hired them in the first place.
That all means that Donald Trump is not exactly unique in his attempt to satisfy all the GOP and national constituencies who are seeking to be validated by having “one of theirs” in a prominent position. We are now entering into the final stages of the transition process to name the last few political appointees who will take senior positions in the new Administration. A number of layabouts and scallywags have surfaced during the process and some have even made it to the top levels. That those like John Bolton did not make the final cut, apparently due to his moustache and the principled opposition to his candidacy mounted by Senator Rand Paul, has the entire world breathing a sigh of relief. Others, to include Michael Flynn the National Security Advisor and Nikki Haley as U.N. Ambassador unfortunately did manage to squeak through and will presumably be well placed to wreak havoc over the next four years.
But truly the most ghastly candidate who almost made it through the screening process , in this case to become number two at the Department of State, had to be Elliot Abrams. Abrams had the support of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Principal Adviser Jared Kushner. Abrams was reportedly nixed by Trump himself due to his sharp criticism of the GOP candidate during the campaign against Hillary Clinton.
The American people and the rest of the world really dodged a bullet when Abrams was denied as he was the neoconservative candidate par excellence and might be regarded as the potential enabler of a neocon reentry into government. Predictably his buddies rallied around to praise him in defeat, with CNN quoting an unnamed “Republican source” who mourned “This is a loss for the State Department and the country and, for that matter, for the President.” Another said Abrams did not get the position because of “Donald Trump’s thin skin and nothing else,” which is manifestly a ridiculous comment as Rand Paul was clearly sending a signal that he would also work hard to block the appointment. Tillerson, however, reportedly pushed for Abrams “because he felt he needed his foreign policy experience…” Excuse me?
Abrams’ “foreign policy experience” is largely negative and some would even suggest criminal. He was an odd choice in any event, only explicable due to his still powerful neocon network pushing him forward. He had written an opinion piece in May in The Weekly Standard entitled “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate” after Trump had obtained enough support to become the Republican nominee. The first line of the Abrams article reads “The party has nominated someone who cannot win and should not be president of the United States” in part because of his “complete ignorance of foreign policy” and it goes on to question Trump’s “character and fitness to be commander in chief.” He advocated purging the GOP of Trump supporters after the expected victory of Hillary Clinton. And this man actually expected to be appointed to high office by Donald Trump?
Abrams is a close associate of leading neocons Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. He was a founding co-signer of their Project for a New American Century, led the charge to invade Iraq after calling for “regime change,” and has endorsed military interventions in Libya and Syria as well as Iran. He withheld information from Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal, was convicted, and later pardoned by George H. W. Bush.
Elliot Abrams has received considerable media coverage since his name surfaced as possible Deputy Secretary of State but none of it has focused on his close attachment to the state of Israel and his belief that Jews should not marry non-Jews. He is a regular speaker on the so-called “synagogue speaker circuit” and is cited frequently in the Jewish media both in the U.S. and in Israel. He called Chuck Hagel an “anti-Semite” when Hagel was up for confirmation as defense secretary because Hagel had been mildly critical of Israel and the Israeli Lobby while a Senator.
Abrams was and presumably still is opposed to U.S. pressuring the Netanyahu government to bring about a peace settlement with the Palestinians, telling Bill Kristol in an interview that “…tension…is growing between the U.S. and Israel over this. Because we are constantly asking in my view for Israeli concessions, to kind of oil this mechanism of peace. And the Israelis are getting tired of it. And they think, you know, this is not the way an ally should act.” His sagacious view is a clear misrepresentation of the actual facts to ignore real American interests and favor the Israeli point of view. It should have been a disqualifier for a senior post at State but for the established fact that only Israel Firsters need apply for any positions at Foggy Bottom that deal with the Middle East.
The other uninspiring appointee that unfortunately made it through the vetting process is Gina Haspel, who was named as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on February 2nd. She was reportedly involved in the rendition and torture programs ca. 2003-4 and actually was senior officer in charge of one of the overseas prisons located in Thailand, which was the epicenter of the “enhanced interrogation” program and the site where al-Qaeda prisoner Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, “tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead.” In 2005 she also ordered the destruction of the video tapes made of the interrogations to avoid providing evidence to any congressional inquiry into what had gone on.
The appointment of Haspel is a sign that torturing people can be career enhancing if one works for the United States government. Her promotion was endorsed by the usual suspects including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who has recently advocated assassinating Iranians and Russians to send a message that the United States is “serious.”
If one needs more evidence that many in the United States government at senior levels should be locked away somewhere to protect the rest of the world I would point both to Haspel and also to last week’s reaction to what was an eminently sensible comment by Donald Trump. Trump was asked by interviewer Bill O’Reilly why he respected a “killer” like Vladimir Putin and responded “You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?” He added that Putin “is a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not.”
For drawing what was described as a “moral equivalency” between Russia and the U.S., Trump was blasted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, a gaggle of Republican senators led by the lugubrious Mitch McConnell, sundry Democrats and late night television hosts. Yet Trump was if anything, too nice. The United States has unleashed far more havoc on the world than Putin and yet it persists in describing itself as the “Leader of the Free World” and the planet’s greatest democracy. Abrams is intent on regime changing most of the Arab world to benefit Israel while Haspel does torture. Both are described as respected members of the foreign policy establishment and are lauded by the media and political chattering class for their service to their country.
Go figure. That people as morally repugnant as Haspel and Abrams should be considered for high level office in Washington is a travesty. All of the flag waving and boasting of American exceptionalism is a joke as the civilian death toll from drone and shadow warriors continues to mount in places like Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. Yes, it is indisputably far “better to get along with Putin” and with everyone else, but that appears to be something that many people in Washington find hard to accept.
From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2017, Issue No. 12
February 15, 2017
THE ESSENTIAL JUDGE GORSUCH, & MORE FROM CRS
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is the author of more than 800 legal opinions.
“This provides an enormous–and perhaps unwieldy–body of law for those interested in learning about Judge Gorsuch’s approach to judging,” the Congressional Research Service says.
To make it easier to assess that record, CRS has produced a listing of notable rulings by Judge Gorsuch with links to the underlying decisions, broken down by category of law (civil rights, constitutional law, capital punishment, etc.). “These categories represent fields of law where Judge Gorsuch could, if confirmed, influence the High Court’s approach.”
See The Essential Neil Gorsuch Reader: What Judge Gorsuch Cases Should You Read?, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 13, 2017.
Other noteworthy new or updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following:
Immigration Officers’ Authority to Apprehend and Remove Aliens: Questions & Answers in Brief, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 13, 2017
Plan to Restrict Federal Grants to “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” Raises Legal Questions, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 14, 2017
Iran Nuclear Agreement, updated February 10, 2017
U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, updated February 10, 2017
China-U.S. Trade Issues, updated February 9, 2017
“Fiscal Space” and the Federal Budget, CRS Insight, February 14, 2017
The Federal Budget Deficit and the Business Cycle, CRS Insight, February 14, 2017
Congressional Gold Medals, 1776-2016, updated February 13, 2017
More Low-Cost Transatlantic Flights May Shake Airline Industry, CRS Insight, February 10, 2017
The average age of members of the 115th Congress is “among the oldest in U.S. history,” according to a new CRS survey. See Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile, February 10, 2017.
Trump assails U.S. intelligence agencies amid questions over Russia
February 15, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump assailed U.S. intelligence agencies on Wednesday for what he said were illegal information leaks, and dismissed reports of contacts between members of his presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officials.
Trump went on the counter-offensive as his administration reeled from the abrupt dismissal of Michael Flynn as national security adviser on Monday.
The New York Times reported late on Tuesday that phone call records and intercepted calls showed members of Trump’s presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the Nov. 8 election.
Trump dismissed the report, firing back in a series of early morning tweets on Wednesday.
“This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign,” the Republican president tweeted, citing his former Democratic rival in the 2016 presidential contest.
In another tweet, Trump said: “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia,” adding that the situation was “very serious.”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by “intelligence” like candy. Very un-American!” Trump wrote.
He did not give evidence to back his charge that intelligence officials were supplying information to the news media. He did not say if he had ordered any investigation into leaks.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the Times report, which the Kremlin dismissed on Wednesday.
CNN also reported that Trump advisers were in constant contact with Russian officials during the campaign.
The Times, citing current and former U.S. officials, said U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they discovered Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee.
The officials had seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election, the Times said, but they were still alarmed by the intercepted communications.
Flynn was forced out over conversations he had with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office on Jan. 20, and his misrepresentations to Vice President Mike Pence over what he had discussed.
The Times said the intercepted calls in its report were different from the wiretapped conversations between Flynn and the ambassador, Sergei Kislyak.
U.S. lawmakers, including some leading Republicans, called on Tuesday for a deeper inquiry into not just Flynn’s actions but broader White House ties to Russia. Trump has long said that he would like improved relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador took place around the time that then-President Barack Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia on Dec. 29, charging that Moscow had used cyber attacks to try to influence the presidential election in Trump’s favor.
A U.S. official familiar with the transcripts of the calls with the ambassador said Flynn indicated that if Russia did not retaliate, that could smooth the way toward a broader discussion of improving U.S.-Russian relations once Trump took power.
This was potentially illegal under a law barring unauthorized private citizens from interfering in disputes the United States has with other countries.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Frances Kerry)
Trump asks Netanyahu to hold off on settlements, avoids endorsing two-state solution
February 15, 2017
US President Donald Trump has called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause settlement expansion in order to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, but he would not indicate commitment to a two-state solution.
“The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, but they have to negotiate it themselves, Trump said at a joint press conference with Netanyahu in Washington, DC on Wednesday.“Both sides will have to make compromises.”
“I want the Israeli people to know that the US stands with Israel in the struggle against terrorism, ”the US president added, calling Israel a “cherished ally.”
“Israel has no better ally than the US,” Netanyahu said, “and the US has no better ally than Israel.”
The Israeli PM praised Trump’s commitment to resist “slander and boycotts” of his country in international bodies, and said both Israel and the US are under attack “by one malevolent force – radical Islamic terrorism.”
Asked if he preferred a one-state or a two-state solution, Trump said, “I’m happy with the one they like the best,” referring to both Israelis and the Palestinians.
“I’d like to see you hold off on settlements for a little bit,” he told Netanyahu, and said the US was “looking with great care” at relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognizing Israel’s claim to the city as its capital.
Israel had two prerequisites for any peace settlement, Netanyahu said. “First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state, they must stop calling for Israel’s destruction… Second, Israel must retain security control over all of the area west of the Jordan River.”
If those requirements are not met, Palestine would become “another failed state, another Islamist dictatorship that will not work for peace, but work to destroy us,” Netanyahu said.
Asked what compromises the two sides might have to make, Trump said the Israelis “will have to show some flexibility” and signal they want to make a deal, while “Palestinians have to give up some of the hate they’ve been taught from a very young age.”
Netanyahu also criticized the nuclear deal the six world powers had reached with Iran in 2015, accusing Tehran of wanting to build a nuclear arsenal – “a hundred bombs” – and intercontinental missiles that could reach the US.
Iranian ballistic missiles are inscribed with “Israel must be destroyed” in Hebrew, Netanyahu said, adding that he welcomed the Trump administration’s determination to make Iran pay for “fomenting terrorism” in the Middle East.
Efforts by the Trump administration to review the nuclear deal were spearheaded by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, but he resigned on Monday amid accusations that he’d misled administration officials about his talks with Russian diplomats during the tra
Trump called Flynn a “wonderful man… treated very unfairly by the media,” but did not address the question of how his resignation would affect the administration’s relations with Iran.
When an Israeli reported asked Trump about the alleged uptick in anti-Semitism and xenophobia following his election, the US president said he would do everything in his power to unify the country, and that his term in office would see “a lot of love.”
“There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump,” Netanyahu said, concluding the press conference.
New Declassified CIA Memo Presents Blueprint for Syrian Regime Collapse
February 14, 2017
by Brad Hoff
A newly declassified CIA document explored multiple scenarios of Syrian regime collapse at a time when Hafez al-Assad’s government was embroiled in a covert “dirty war” with Israel and the West, and in the midst of a diplomatic crisis which marked an unprecedented level of isolation for Syria.
The 24-page formerly classified memo entitled Syria: Scenarios of Dramatic Political Change was produced in July 1986, and had high level distribution within the Reagan administration and to agency directors, including presidential advisers, the National Security Council, and the US ambassador to Syria. The memo appears in the CIA’s latest CREST release (CIA Records Search Tool) of over 900,000 recently declassified documents.
A “severely restricted” report
The memo’s cover letter, drafted by the CIA’s Director of Global Issues (the report itself was prepared by the division’s Foreign Subversion and Instability Center), introduces the purpose of presenting “a number of possible scenarios that could lead to the ouster of President Assad or other dramatic change in Syria.”
It further curiously warns that, “Because the analysis out of context is susceptible to misunderstanding, external distribution has been severely restricted.” The report’s narrowed distribution list (sent to specific named national security heads, not entire agencies) indicates that it was considered at the highest levels of the Reagan administration.
The coming sectarian war for Syria
The intelligence report’s contents contain some striking passages which seem remarkably consistent with events as they unfolded decades later at the start of the Syrian war in 2011:
Although we judge that fear of reprisals and organizational problems make a second Sunni challenge unlikely, an excessive government reaction to minor outbreaks of Sunni dissidence might trigger large-scale unrest. In most instances the regime would have the resources to crush a Sunni opposition movement, but we believe widespread violence among the populace could stimulate large numbers of Sunni officers and conscripts to desert or munity, setting the stage for civil war. [pg.2]
The “second Sunni challenge” is a reference to the Syrian government’s prior long running war against a Muslim Brotherhood insurgency which culminated in the 1982 Hama Massacre. While downplaying the nationalist and pluralistic composition of the ruling Ba’ath party, the report envisions a renewal and exploitation of sectarian fault lines pitting Syria’s Sunni population against its Alawite leadership:
Sunnis make up 60 percent of the Syrian officer corps but are concentrated in junior officer ranks; enlisted men are predominantly Sunni conscripts. We believe that a renewal of communal violence between Alawis and Sunnis could inspire Sunnis in the military to turn against the regime. [pg.12]
Regime change and the Muslim Brotherhood
The possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood spearheading another future armed insurgency leading to regime change is given extensive focus. While the document’s tone suggests this as a long term future scenario (especially considering the Brotherhood suffered overwhelming defeat and went completely underground in Syria by the mid-1980’s), it is considered one of the top three “most likely” drivers of regime change (the other scenarios include “Succession Power Struggle” and “Military Reverses Spark a Coup”).
The potential for revival of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “militant faction” is introduced in the following:
Although the Muslim Brotherhood’s suppression drastically reduced armed dissidence, we judge a significant potential still exists for another Sunni opposition movement. In part the Brotherhood’s role was to exploit and orchestrate opposition activity by other organized groups… These groups still exist, and under proper leadership they could coalesce into a large movement… …young professionals who formed the base of support for the militant faction of the Muslim Brotherhood; and remnants of the Brotherhood itself who could become leaders in a new Sunni opposition movement… [pp.13-14]
The Brotherhood’s role is seen as escalating the potential for initially small Sunni protest movements to morph into violent sectarian civil war:
Sunni dissidence has been minimal since Assad crushed the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s, but deep-seated tensions remain–keeping alive the potential for minor incidents to grow into major flareups of communal violence… Excessive government force in quelling such disturbances might be seen by Sunnis as evidence of a government vendetta against all Sunnis, precipitating even larger protests by other Sunni groups…
Mistaking the new protests as a resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood, the government would step up its use of force and launch violent attacks on a broad spectrum of Sunni community leaders as well as on those engaged in protests. Regime efforts to restore order would founder if government violence against protestors inspired broad-based communal violence between Alawis and Sunnis. [pp.19-20]
The CIA report describes the final phase of an evolving sectarian war which witnesses the influx of fighters and weapons from neighboring countries. Consistent with a 1983 secret report that called for a US covert operation to utilize then US-allied Iraq as a base of attack on Syria, the 1986 analysis says, “Iraq might supply them with sufficient weapons to launch a civil war”:
A general campaign of Alawi violence against Sunnis might push even moderate Sunnis to join the opposition. Remnants of the Muslim Brotherhood–some returning from exile in Iraq–could provide a core of leadership for the movement. Although the regime has the resources to crush such a venture, we believe brutal attacks on Sunni civilians might prompt large numbers of Sunni officers and conscripts to desert or stage mutinies in support of dissidents, and Iraq might supply them with sufficient weapons to launch a civil war. [pp.20-21]
A Sunni regime serving Western economic interests
While the document is primarily a theoretical exploration projecting scenarios of Syrian regime weakening and collapse (its purpose is analysis and not necessarily policy), the authors admit of its “purposefully provocative” nature (see PREFACE) and closes with a list desired outcomes. One provocative outcome describes a pliant “Sunni regime” serving US economic interests:
In our view, US interests would be best served by a Sunni regime controlled by business-oriented moderates. Business moderates would see a strong need for Western aid and investment to build Syria’s private economy, thus opening the way for stronger ties to Western governments. [pg. 24]
Ironically, the Syrian government would accuse the United States and its allies of covert subversion within Syria after a string of domestic bombings created diplomatic tensions during the mid-1980’s.
Dirty tricks and diplomacy in the 1980’s
According to Patrick Seale’s landmark book, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East, 1986 was a year that marked Syria’s greatest isolation among world powers as multiple diplomatic crises and terror events put Syria more and more out in the cold.
The year included “the Hindawi affair”—a Syrian intelligence sponsored attempt to hijack and bomb an El Al flight to Tel Aviv—and may or may not have involved Nezar Hindawi working as a double agent on behalf of Israel. The foiled plot brought down international condemnation on Syria and lives on as one of the more famous and bizarre terror conspiracies in history. Not only were Syria and Israel once again generally on the brink of war in 1986, but a string of “dirty tricks” tactics were being utilized by Syria and its regional enemies to shape diplomatic outcomes primarily in Lebanon and Jordan.
In March and April of 1986 (months prior to the distribution of the CIA memo), a string of still largely unexplained car bombs rocked Damascus and at least 5 towns throughout Syria, leaving over 200 civilians dead in the most significant wave of attacks since the earlier ’79-’82 war with the Muslim Brotherhood (also see BBC News recount the attacks).
Patrick Seale’s book speculates of the bombings that, “It may not have been unconnected that in late 1985 the NSC’s Colonel Oliver North and Amiram Nir, Peres’s counter-terrorism expert, set up a dirty tricks outfit to strike back at the alleged sponsors of Middle East terrorism.”*
Consistency with future WikiLeaks files
The casual reader of Syria: Scenarios of Dramatic Political Change will immediately recognize a strategic thinking on Syria that looks much the same as what is revealed in national security memos produced decades later in the run up to the current war in Syria.
When US cables or intelligence papers talk regime change in Syria they usually strategize in terms of exploiting sectarian fault lines. In a sense, this is the US national security bureaucracy’s fall-back approach to Syria.
One well-known example is contained in a December 2006 State Dept. cable sent from the US embassy in Syria (subsequently released by WikiLeaks). The cable’s stated purpose is to explore Syrian regime vulnerabilities and weaknesses to exploit (in similar fashion to the 1986 CIA memo):
PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE: There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business.
Another section of the 2006 cable explains precisely the same scenario laid out in the 1986 memo in describing the increased “possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction” on the part of the regime.:
ENCOURAGE RUMORS AND SIGNALS OF EXTERNAL PLOTTING: The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military. Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like [former Vice President Abdul Halim] Khaddam and [younger brother of Hafez] Rif’at Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime’s paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction.
And ironically, Rif’at Asad and Khaddam are both mentioned extensively in the 1986 memo as key players during a speculative future “Succession Power Struggle.” [p.15]
An Islamic State in Damascus?
While the 1986 CIA report makes a case in its concluding paragraph for “a Sunni regime controlled by business-oriented moderates” in Syria, the authors acknowledge that the collapse of the Ba’ath state could actually usher in the worst of all possible outcomes for Washington and the region: “religious zealots” might seek to establish “an Islamic Republic”. The words take on a new and special importance now, after the rise of ISIS:
Although Syria’s secular traditions would make it extremely difficult for religious zealots to establish an Islamic Republic, should they succeed they would likely deepen hostilities with Israel and provide support and sanctuary to terrorists groups. [pg.24]
What continues to unfold in Syria has apparently surpassed even the worst case scenarios of intelligence planners in the 1980’s. Tinkering with regime change has proven itself to be the most dangerous of all games.
*Seale, Patrick. Asad of Syria : the struggle for the Middle East (Berkeley, CA : University of California Press, 1989)p.474.
‘Our land’: Russia tells US that Crimea won’t be ‘given back’ to Ukraine
February 15, 2017
Russia won’t give Crimea back to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response to White House comments that Donald Trump expects Moscow to “return” the peninsular.
“We don’t return our territories. Crimea is a territory of the Russian Federation,” Zakharova said at a weekly news briefing on current foreign policy issues.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that US President Donald Trump has been tough on Russia and expects Moscow to “return” Crimea to Ukraine.
“President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea,” Spicer said. “At the same time, he fully expects to – and wants to – get along with Russia.”
Trump later reiterated his position on Crimea on Twitter.
Earlier in February, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, strongly denounced “the Russian occupation” in Crimea.
“Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” Haley said.
Crimea became part of the Russian Empire back in the 18th century, but was reassigned to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 by the Soviet Union’s ruling presidium. Following the 2014 coup in Kiev, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.
The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or around 58.3 percent of the population, according to the last national census conducted back in 2001. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000) and 12 percent are Crimean Tatars.
Finding feelings: Intelligence agency lines up new tool for rooting out insider threats
February 6, 2017
by Samantha Ehlinger
The government’s eye in the sky is working on a way to understand more about what’s happening inside its own workers’ heads.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has been building a suite of software to assess the likelihood its employees could leak classified information, harm someone in the workplace or harm themselves. And now it’s planning to try a tool that “looks for emotion” by analyzing text in emails, work chats, social media and more.
Bob Lamon, director of NGA’s Insider Threat Program, told FedScoop that the software, which will be deployed as a pilot project, isn’t entirely devoted to catching violators. In particular, it will help analysts easily identify and dismiss false positives, which can be a costly problem for an agency with about 14,500 workers who provide crucial intelligence about what’s happening on the ground all over the world.
“We get a lot of hits that we have to investigate that we find out are absolutely nothing,” Lamon said. “We’re hoping that something that is looking at the sentiment of what people are writing can help us eliminate those false positives.”
The new emotion-gauging software would only pick up traffic on work devices, Lamon said. Agency personnel know that “the rule of thumb is, if they do it on our systems, we know about it,” he said.
The pilot project comes as NGA and other intelligence agencies are looking for novel ways to expand the use of analytics to root out insider threats. Infamous leakers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning have created an intense focus on blocking unauthorized disclosures. But Lamon is quick to point to the NGA project’s potential for helping to prevent workplace violence and threat-to-self incidents.
“While, OK, espionage and unauthorized disclosures and all that are a huge problem, it’s really to protect our people,” Lamon said of the new tool. “It’s to protect our data. And it’s to protect our facilities.”
‘Advanced psycholinguistics and proprietary algorithms’
NGA officials referred questions on the specific technical specs of the proprietary technology to Stroz Friedberg, the Washington, D.C., company that developed it. Stroz Friedberg did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls, but a promotional video on its website provides more insight into the way the technology operates.
The application, called SCOUT, “uses advanced psycholinguistics and proprietary algorithms protected by 10 U.S. patents to identify troubling content in emails, texts and other communications sent through your networks,” according to the video.
An expert at NGA did say the software looks at words and combinations of words, and it compares those to examples the company has collected that it believes indicate certain sentiments.
“When you look at it, that is what they’re saying — that they can detect emotion within the text,” Lamon said. “That is why we’re doing a pilot, to see if that truly is something that we can leverage.”
The SCOUT tool, Lamon said, tracks only text — not images or video. NGA employees can use social media such as Facebook,”for a limited amount of time” at work, and that would be tracked if it was done on the NGA network he said. The agency also has a classified chat platform for employees “that can be understood” by SCOUT, Lamon said.
When asked to specify what emotions SCOUT might track, Lamon said: “I mean I think they’re probably hard to put your finger on. I mean obviously depression or things like that that we might focus in on, and use other data sources to clarify or to understand.”
On the Stroz Friedberg promotional video when a narrator mentions the need to track “early insider threat signals,” words flash on the screen: disgruntlement, victimization, revenge, anger and blame.
The technology has been deployed successfully in government agencies, according to the promotional video, but the company does not specify which ones.
“The tool in particular that we’re looking to pilot we have heard through a variety of means that it has some capability,” Lamon said. “We want to look at that in a pilot program and see if it aids us in what we’re charged with to do in the building.”
The agency is still working through a contractual issue with the company to get the technology in the building, but Lamon said the agency hopes to begin the pilot within the next month.
At an Atlantic Council and Thomson Reuters event on Jan. 13 in Washington, NGA Director Robert Cardillo acknowledged that insider threat technology “is not a perfect science.”
“But there’s some correlation between disgruntlement with your job, some, or anger with a lack of a promotion or whatnot, that could correlate to doing something inappropriate with the data, whether it’s revenge or whatnot,” Cardillo said at the time.
The technical journey to predicting espionage
Asked if the new tool was chosen based on successful deployment in another agency in the U.S. intelligence community, Lamon noted that NGA’s system “is not predicated on anybody else’s.”
“Insider threat systems around the community are all different in a lot of ways, with their tools and technologies,” he said. “This one, again, we felt like it may be helpful in helping us eliminate the false positives we’re getting. But I can’t speak to other folks in the community.”
Congress has been working to assert its oversight of insider threat programs. For example, the House recently passed a bill to codify the Department of Homeland Security’s activities for detecting and mitigating insider threats.
An expectation of privacy?
At the Atlantic Council event, Cardillo noted that NGA hires sign paperwork indicating they are giving up their right to privacy while on agency networks.
“By the way, when you log on to your workstation in the morning the first thing you see is that same disclaimer: Congratulations you are now online on the NGA system. Everything you do on this system now will be tracked, and sorted and scored,” Cardillo said. “OK, so everyone knows what’s happening, this is not a covert action.”
He added: “It’s part of the trade you make to work in an intelligence organization. But only at work.”
But “the real key” to tackling insider threats, according to Lamon, “is to put a suite of tools together to make a risk assessment on every one of your folks that allows you to understand risk associated with each one of your folks.”
At NGA, Lamon said identifying a potential insider threat is not an automated decision, but one made by humans aided by automated tools.
“There are people in the middle that look at all this data and assess the totality of the person and the information where that issue needs to go,” he said.
And identification is not usually based on one comment, he said, “although it could be if that one comment were very discrete. More often than not, it’s based on a variety of information sources before we would ever come to that determination.”
For example, an employee would not be flagged just for being disgruntled.
“It’s not against the rules to be unhappy at work,” he said. “And until it is something that we need to look at, from their ability to retain classified information or that kind of thing, we don’t act on it at all.”
Germany emphasizes importance of two-state solution
Germany has reaffirmed its support of a two-state solution in the Middle East after reports the US was open to alternatives. The discussion occurs as US President Trump prepares to host Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
February 15, 2017
Following comments from the White House that – contrary to America’s long-standing policy – a two-state solution may not be necessary for peace in the Middle East, Germany has insisted that the approach cannot be abandoned.
German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said a two-state solution was the foundation of Germany’s Middle East policy.
The head of a German parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Norbert Röttgen, was quoted by “Die Welt” newspaper as saying “the two-state solution is the only way Israel can remain a democratic and a Jewish state at the same time.”
Niels Annen, foreign policy spokesperson for the Social Democrats in parliament, told the same paper that if the alleged shift in the US stance on Israel was indeed true, “it would torpedo the efforts of the United Nations and cause a break in German-American Middle East policy.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also pressed Washington to stick to the two-state policy.
“There is no alternative solution for the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis, other than the solution of establishing two states and we should do all that can be done to maintain this,” Guterres said Wednesday from Cairo.
On Tuesday, a White House official speaking to reporters in a press briefing said that in the Middle East, “peace is the goal,” but not necessarily the two-state solution.
“Whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution […] or something else, if that’s what the parties want, we’re going to help them,” the official said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The White House official said rebooting the Middle East peace process was a high priority and that he hoped to bring Israelis and Palestinians together soon. Trump has also given his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the task of negotiating a peace deal.
Palestine Liberation Organization official Wasel Abu Yousef responded by saying “this kind of talk would only further agitate the region and bring turmoil and unrest because it scraps the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state.”
Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, told the Bayerischer Rundfunk public broadcaster that abandoning the two-state solution was “unrealistic” and “a lot of blood would be shed” before both sides finally end up returning to the two-state solution.
A spokesperson for the EU’s foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, also reaffirmed the EU’s support for the two-state solution.
Netanyahu in Washington
The two-state solution is seen by many as the only way to achieve lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. However, Israel’s policy of expanding settlements under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put it at odds with the international community – including the United States – making a two-state solution a difficult prospect for the time being.
Trump is expected to host Netanyahu later on Wednesday at the White House for their first meeting since power changed hands in Washington.
Netanyahu won re-election in 2015 by insisting he would not accept the creation of a Palestinian state, a promise that substantially strained relations with then-President Barack Obama’s administration.
Trump’s election was welcomed by many in Israel of a sign of a shift in the relationship between the two countries.
Treachery in a bad name
Israeli spying on the U.S.
February 15, 2017
by Harry von Johnston, PhD
The FBI investigation into Israeli espionage agents in the Pentagon has been part of a major struggle between prominent Likudists in the Pentagon and the US security apparatus. For many years there has been a fierce political and organizational war between the Pentagon Likudists and their militant American collaborators, on the one hand, and the professional military and intelligence apparatus, on the other.
This conflict has manifested itself in a series of major issues including the war in the Middle East, the rational for war, the relationship between Israel and the US, the strategy for empire, as well as tactical issues like the size of military force needed for colonial wars and the nature of colonial occupation.
From 9/11/2001 to the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon Likudists and the civilian Neocons had the upper hand: they marginalized the CIA and established their own intelligence services to “cook the data”, they pushed through the doctrine of sequential wars, beginning with Afghanistan and Iraq and projecting wars with Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. The Pentagon Zionists increased Israel’s power in the Middle East and promoted its expansionist colonization of Palestine, at the expense of US soldiers, budget busting expenditures and CIA objections.
The US military and security apparatus has retaliated. First by debunking Zionist lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, then by exposing the role of Zionist client Ahmed Chalabi as a double agent for Iran, followed by a two-year investigation of Pentagon Likudists passing documents to Israeli military intelligence and the secret police, the Mossad.
Israel has for decades subverted US foreign policy to serve its interests through the organized power of major Jewish organizations in the US. What is new in the current Pentagon spy case is that rather than pressuring from the outside to secure favorable policies for Israel, the Israel loyalists are in top positions within the government making strategic decisions about US global policy and providing their Israeli handlers with secret documents pertaining to top level discussions in the White House on questions of war and peace. Today the politics of Pentagon and AIPAC espionage is especially dangerous – because what is at stake is a new US and/or Israeli war on Iran which will ignite the entire Middle East.
Given the high level of structural collaboration and integration of US Pentagon Likudist agents and US Jewish organizations with the Israeli state, the boundaries of what are United States policies and interests and what are Israeli prerogatives and interests are blurred. From the perspective of the Pentagon Zionists and their organized Jewish supporters, it is “natural” that the US spends billions to finance Israeli military power and territorial expansion. It is “natural” to transfer strategic documents from the Pentagon to the Israeli State. As Haaretz states, “Why would Israel have to steal documents when they can find out whatever they want through official meetings?”
The routinization of espionage via official consultations between Israeli and US Zionist officials became public knowledge throughout the executive branch. Only it wasn’t called espionage, it was referred to as ‘exchanging intelligence’, only the Israelis sent ‘disinformation’ to the Pentagon Zionists to serve their interests while the latter passed on the real policies, positions and strategies of the US government.
The history of the key Zionists in the Pentagon reveals a pattern of disloyalty to the US and covert assistance to Israel. Harold Rhode and William Luti, both identified Pentagon Likudists under Feith , Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby, have been under investigation by the FBI for passing documents to Israel. Rhode had his security clearance suspended. CIA operatives in Baghdad reported he was constantly on his cell phone to Israel reporting on US plans, military deployments, political projects, Iraqi assets and a host of other confidential information. Michael Ledeen, another influential Zionist policy maker who worked in the Pentagon lost his security clearance after he was accused of passing classified material to a ‘foreign country (Israel). In 2001 Feith hired Ledeen to work for the Office of Special Plans which handled top secret documents. Feith himself was fired in March 1983 from the National Security Council for providing Israel with classified data. The FBI investigated Wolfowitz for having provided documents to Israel on a proposed sale of US weapons to an Arab country.
It is clear that Israeli agents, not simply Zionists ideologues, infest the top echelon of the Pentagon. The question is not merely a question of taking this or that policy position in favor of Israel but of working systematically on a whole range of issues to further Israeli power over and against US imperial interests.
The Israeli officials claim that Mossad and military intelligence solemnly pledged to stop spying on the US after the Jonathan Pollard case. “We have never spied on the US since…”, they claim. In fact over 800 Israeli spies posing as ‘art’ students and tourists were expelled after 9/11 and several Mossad agents posing as movers in New Jersey and Tennessee were expelled.
The arrogance of Israeli power in then US, which Sharon publicly boasted about, is largely based on the simple principle embraced by all Zionist zealots whether they are Ivy league academics or neo-fascist felons (like Elliot Abrams) is “What’s good for Israel is good for the US”.
“Good for Israel” today means bloody US wars against Israel’s adversaries, unconditional support for Israeli expansion and pillage of Palestine and now spying on the US for the good of Israel. Guided by this slogan it is easy to see how everything in the US that might be of use to Israeli intelligence whether it be documents, directives or strategic debates about big wartime issues taking place in the White House are fair game for transmission to Israeli intelligence.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem battle for their homes
Dozens of Palestinian families live with the constant threat of eviction by Israeli settler groups in the occupied city.
February 14, 2017
by Jaclynn Ashly
Occupied East Jerusalem – Ahmad Sub Laban gently peeled back the blinds covering a window in his home, revealing the golden Dome of the Rock in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
“If you look outside this window, you will understand exactly why the Israelis are targeting us with eviction,” he told Al Jazeera.
The Sub Labans are among at least 180 Palestinian families threatened with eviction by Israeli settler groups throughout occupied East Jerusalem, including 21 families in the Old City.
The Sub Labans are considered “protected tenants”, a status originating from an Ottoman-era law that guards against arbitrary evictions and establishes rent controls. After Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the status was abolished, but for those who had already obtained it, the Israeli government issued the Third Generation Law, which strips Palestinians of the right after three generations of protected tenancy.
The conditions for maintaining protected tenancy are also extremely stringent; even renovating a small piece of an apartment could lead to revocation, said Daniel Seidemann, director of the nonprofit group Jerusalem Terrestrial. Hundreds of Palestinians in the city are protected tenants, according to a field researcher from the Jerusalem-based nonprofit organisation Ir Amim.
Some Palestinians with protected tenancy in the Old City say that Israeli settler groups have hastily moved to evict them after the death of the last member of their family’s third generation. Others say that their rights have been systematically eroded in the Israeli court system in an effort to increase the Jewish presence in occupied East Jerusalem.
Surrounded by Israeli settlers, the Sub Labans are the last Palestinians left in their apartment building in the neighbourhood of al-Khaldiya. The cobblestone steps outside their building lead to a large Star of David and a string of Israeli flags.
The family received their latest eviction order in 2010, after being accused by Israeli settlers of not living in the apartment, which would nullify their protected tenancy agreement. The family vehemently denied the accusation.
Late last year, the Israeli Supreme Court concluded the decades-long property dispute with a controversial ruling: Nora and Mustafa Sub Laban, Ahmad’s parents, would be permitted to stay in their apartment for 10 years, but Ahmad, his wife, two small children and two siblings would be evicted.
“It’s like I am being held on death row,” Nora told Al Jazeera. “They have sentenced a piece of me to death, and now my husband and I have 10 years to wait in isolation for the day the settlers come to evict us.”
Ahmad said that his grandmother signed a rental agreement with the Jordanian government in 1953, making Nora the second generation of the protected tenancy. However, the Israeli court stripped the right from Ahmad and his siblings, who have continued to contest the decision, saying that they should be shielded from eviction as the family’s third generation.
“They revoked our rights in the Israeli courts,” Ahmad said. “This is an Israeli policy: use every possible means to remove Palestinian residents and replace them with Israeli settlers.”
The apartment building where the Sub Labans live had once been a trust for 19th-century Jews migrating from the Galicia region of Eastern Europe. Many of these properties were repurposed by the Jordanian government to house Palestinian refugees displaced from their villages after the 1948 war.
In 1967, the properties were transferred to Israel’s General Custodian. Several years later, Israel passed the Legal and Administrative Matters Law, allowing Israelis to claim property in East Jerusalem believed to have been owned by Jews before 1948.
The settlers who subsequently moved into the area arrived with a mentality to “take as much as they can from Palestinians”, Ahmad said.
Last year, Israeli settlers drilled several large holes into the wall of Ahmad’s children’s bedroom. The austere restrictions on home renovations for residents with protected tenancy has prevented the family from fixing the damage.
“They try to make life as difficult as possible for us,” Ahmad said.
Worlds away from the bustle of the Old City, Mazen Qerish lives in a new home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya. He was evicted from the Old City last year after living there for nearly six decades.
Qerish’s apartment, which his grandfather first rented in 1936, had always been Palestinian-owned. But in 1987, the Palestinian landlord sold the property to a company affiliated with the settler organisation Ateret Cohanim, which works to increase the population of Israeli settlers in the city by facilitating property deals and establishing Jewish communities there, in violation of international law. Qerish says that the settler group then initiated a decades-long legal offensive to evict his family.
Ateret Cohanim’s executive director, Daniel Luria, denied the allegations, telling Al Jazeera that his organisation “doesn’t have anything to do with so-called ‘evictions’ in the Old City”. Qerish was removed from the building because “he no longer had any rights there”, Luria added.
Following the death of Qerish’s father, a seven-year court battle ensued as Israeli settlers attempted to challenge his mother’s protected status.
The judge ruled that she continued to have protected tenancy, but after her death in 2009, the family was thrown back into court. Qerish argued that he should be considered the third generation based on an old contract that referred to his mother as the second generation of the protected tenancy. In 2016, however, the Qerish family lost the case and was forced to leave the building.
“I never once thought I would not be living in the Old City,” Qerish told Al Jazeera. “I thought I had rights and that I was protected. My roots are connected there. My entire life was shaped in the Old City.”
The family has been under severe financial strain since the eviction, with their rent skyrocketing from $265 a year to $530 a month. In addition, the Israeli courts have fined them more than $71,000 for living in their home “illegally” since 2010.
But for Qerish, the most difficult part of the eviction has been the emotional impact. “I was in the middle of the world,” he said. “I had the markets, my friends and my neighbourhood. If I wanted to pray at Al-Aqsa, I could just walk outside my house and be there.”
Today, he often returns to his old neighbourhood of al-Saadiyeh and sets up a chair outside his former home. “Even though it’s a hard life living beside these settlers, I never wanted to leave my home,” he said. “The Old City is part of my soul.”
Across the street from the Sub Labans’ building, four other Palestinian families with protected status have also received eviction orders.
One resident, Sami Sidawi, told Al Jazeera that Israeli settlers claimed that his apartment was uninhabited – even though Sidawi has continued to reside there to care for his physically disabled sister. Sidawi and his sister are the last generation of protected tenants, he said.
And Abu Naser Kastaro, who lives in a small unit on the ground floor of the complex, said that his eviction order claims he lost the apartment in a 1982 court ruling – even though he had never been to court. He believes his case was confused with that of a previously evicted Palestinian family.
The remaining families live in fear that at any moment they could be evicted from their homes.
“I have lived in this apartment for my entire life, but we are seeing Palestinians being evicted from their homes all around us,” Kastaro told Al Jazeera. “Every time I see police on our street, I worry that they are coming to throw us out of the house.”
NATO allies must pay more or US will ‘moderate its commitment’: Mattis
US Defense Secretary Mattis has told NATO that Washington would consider a “moderate” commitment to the alliance if other members do not pay their full share. Earlier, he called NATO a bedrock of transatlantic relations.
February 15, 2017
US Defense Secretary Mattis has told NATO that Washington would consider a “moderate” commitment to the alliance if other members do not pay their full share. Earlier, he called NATO a bedrock of transatlantic relations.
Belgien US Außenminister James Mattis und NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg auf NATO Treffen in Brüssel (Getty Images/AFP/E. Dunand)
At a closed-door meeting with the 28 defense ministers of NATO members on Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the United States would “moderate its commitment” to the alliance if the members did not increase their defense spending by the end of the year.
Without outlining what – or how much – a “moderate commitment” might entail, in a transcript of a speech made available to reporters, Mattis said NATO must agree on a plan that would see governments increase military spending to 2 percent of GDP.
“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values,” Mattis said. “If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”
One of US President Donald Trump’s campaign pledges was to hold NATO countries accountable for their defense spending obligations as members of the military alliance. He also suggested that the US might not hold up its end of the alliance if these demands were not met, but Mattis said in public remarks on Wednesday that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States, and for all the transatlantic community, bonded as we are together.”
With the exception of the United States and Britain, only three other nations – Estonia, Poland, and Greece – meet the threshold. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the US was making a fair demand and called on Germany to increase its defense spending.
Munich Security Report: Here comes the apocalypse
February 15, 2017
by John Wright
In advance of the 2017 Munich Security Conference (MSC) the organizers have published a report with the subheading ‘Post Truth, Post West, Post Order?’ The question answers itself, though not for reasons Western liberals will likely accept.
In the interests of accuracy let us be clear: it is not the West, but Western liberalism that is in crisis. The two entities are distinct and indeed, as events have and continue to prove, completely antithetical to one another.
The first paragraph of the MSC report reads as if the end of the world is upon us.
“The world is facing an illiberal moment. Across the West and beyond, illiberal forces are gaining ground. From within, Western societies are troubled by the emergence of populist movements that oppose critical elements of the liberal-democratic status quo. From outside, Western societies are challenged by illiberal regimes trying to cast doubt on liberal democracy and weaken the international order. And Western states themselves seem both unwilling and unable to effectively tackle the biggest security crises – with Syria as the prime example.”
Implied in this statement is the assumption that liberalism, or liberal values, should be considered sacrosanct, the sine qua non of cultural, political, economic and moral virtue, and as such the values according to which every country, society, and people must exist, regardless of cultural, regional, or historical specificities.
Therein lies the problem. Despite the carnage, chaos, instability, conflict without end, societal collapse, and economic dislocation that has been wrought in the name of those very ‘sacrosanct’ liberal values and liberal democracy in recent times, its proponents continue to live in a state of abject denial. Try telling the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Africa, Latin America, who’ve seen their countries and societies destroyed in service to liberal democracy, about this “illiberal moment” they are meant to fear. Try telling the ever and shamefully-increasing number of victims of poverty, lack of education, poor housing, bad or non-existent healthcare provision in Western countries, where liberal values predominate, about them also.
And when it comes to Syria, cited in the report as evidence of a “security crisis” which “Western states seem unwilling and unable to effectively tackle,” have these people no shame? The bestial, brutal, and near sui generis barbarism that has engulfed Syria over the past six years is the product of the destabilization of the region caused by the 9/11 wars – their series of wars and conflicts unleashed and which have erupted in the wake of the terrorist atrocity planned and carried out by Al-Qaeda against the US in 2001.
In what has to count as the irony of our time, rather than succeed in destroying the threat of terrorism and ideology of Al-Qaeda, Washington, and its allies have only succeeded in ensuring its growth and intensification. Frankly put, their determination to exploit 9/11 as a pretext for regime change in the Middle East opened the gates of hell out of which the monster of Salafi-jihadism emerged bent on genocide and death and destruction as an end in itself. The grievous consequences are there for all to see in the shape of a refugee crisis that parallels the one that followed in the wake of the Second World War, religious sectarianism and extremism, the proliferation of terrorism, both regional and international, and human suffering on a scale that makes a mockery of the term ‘Western civilization’.
Further on in the MSC report, we encounter the following:
“Donald Trump’s comments about NATO being “obsolete” have caused great uncertainty among America’s allies, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. The European Union is under pressure, too, as it has to deal with Brexit, a populist surge, the refugee crisis, a potential return of the euro crisis, jihadist attacks, and a revisionist Russia.”
Again, we are confronted with evidence of an intellectual disjuncture between the cherished beliefs of champion of liberal hegemony and reality. NATO is not the force for universal peace, security, or democracy and freedom that its adherents proclaim. It is in truth a military alliance concerned with the projection of Western imperialist power, one that carries a baneful legacy of regime change – i.e. in the former Yugoslavia and Libya. It is a relic of the Cold War that has in recent years been resurrected and elevated in importance in line with a return to a Cold War paradigm – embraced with the objective of deflecting from the political, economic and geopolitical wreckage liberal-democratic values and norms have wrought.
In other words, Russia is being held up as a convenient bogeyman around which people in the US and Western Europe are being encouraged to cohere, painted as a threat to their security and national interests. As George Orwell wrote, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
No right thinking person is opposed to the concept of a united, stable, and secure Europe. How could they when such a Europe is in everyones interest. But the main impediment to achieving this unity, stability, and security is the idea that Russia cannot and should not be part of the solution in this regard, and must be viewed as part of the problem.
What they describe as a “revisionist Russia” is really code for a Russia that refuses to bend at the knee to Western imperialism, domination, and hegemony. Replace “revisionist” with “strong,” and you arrive at the real problem that Western liberal imperialists have with Russia in 2017. They much prefer the country that was ravaged and decimated by free market fundamentalists in the early 1990s, exploiting the chaos and shock in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union to conduct a mass experiment in human despair on an entire society.
Russia’s recovery from this dark decade is one that has never been forgiven by the likes of Javier Solana, David Miliband, and George Soros, each of whom sits on the MSC advisory council.
The contents of the 2017 MSC report merely confirm that there is nothing more illiberal than a liberal for whom the world is one giant chessboard upon which states, governments, and entire peoples are mere pieces to be moved around at their behest.